What a day! It began with me waking at 3AM and thinking about the cooking that I had to do. I got up and went downstairs to finish the bread recipe. This was a long rising No Knead Bread recipe culled from the NY Times. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to properly attend to the recipe and so when I finally pulled it out of the oven, it had fallen flat - considerably flat. The flavor was fine and the texture was pretty good. I had used Whole Wheat Flour instead of All-Purpose Flour. I also substituted some active yeast instead of instant yeast (increasing the amount of the former as one normally does). Coupled with a long rising time and my inability to monitor it, these changes resulted in one fairly flat loaf. I was saddened, but it was nothing that a trip to the store couldn't cure (assuming that we wanted a loaf bread instead of a quick roll). The co-signer had made up some flavored butter for the occasion. I decided that we'd wait and decide together once we got to our friend's house where the meal was to take place.
Next up was a chocolate pecan pie. I had made the pie dough on Wednesday and had it chilling in the refrigerator. It rolled out well. I toasted up the pecans, then preheated the oven. The directions call for making the chocolate sauce while the crust was pre-baking. I threw the crust into the over with foil on the bottom, holes punched into the bottom, and chickpeas acting as pie weights. While the crust cooked, I prepared the chocolate sauce using butter, bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), corn syrup (light, organic from Whole Foods - flavored with vanilla), brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and rum. Once that was done, I checked in on the pie crust. Despite my efforts, a bubble had formed on one side of the crust. I quickly poked through it, but having risen with that bubble, the crust fell on all sides a little. Damn, one failure (bread) and one not as nice as I'd like (pie crust). The crust finished and I through the pecans and chocolate sauce into the pie and baked it.
By this point I was really tired. My sinuses had been acting up all week. I had a hard day at work the day before. Even though I normally rise early, 3AM is a little too early for me, my cooking day wasn't going well, and I suddenly felt as if all I really wanted to do with my day was to stay at home, have someone cook for me, and relax. In other words, I was in a bit of a pissy mood. Time for my audio recording of William S. Burroughs' "A Thanksgiving Prayer" (see video link in the post below). While that cheered me up a little, I was still a bit crestfallen.
The co-signer finished making another flavored butter. Her dishes and mine were strewn throughout the kitchen. I had one more task which was to make some mushroom powder from ground porcini mushrooms. It would only require the use of the spice grinder, but as I looked at the dishes, I realized that I didn't want to face them when I got home. *sigh* I grunted and dove into the task of cleaning them up. By the time I finished, the co-signer had gone upstairs to take a shower. I made the mushroom powder and followed her up. I fell onto the bed, closed my eyes, and curled up with a cat. Though I didn't sleep, the rest did me some good.
Through some miscommunication, we got out of the house a little late. I had taken a pill for the sinuses before we left. We grabbed a coffee and headed out of town. About 10 miles down the road, the co-signer realized that she forgot to pack the flavored butters. Too late, we were going to our friend's place.
Arriving at our friend's home, I dropped off the co-signer and then went to find parking. Luckily, I got a spot just around the corner. Our friend was calm and collected. I gave her the sad news about the bread and we decided bread (and therefore butter) were not necessary as there was plenty to eat. Our friend had asparagus with a mustard sauce prepared already. She also had stuffed mushrooms and stuffed tomatoes prepared (stuffing made with whole wheat crumbs and topped with a small amount of cheese). Now, what wine to choose? We settled on a French Rose. It was a lovely match. While we ate and talked, the rain stopped falling and I actually saw the sun poke up. We finished the wine and decided to take a walk to a nearby park. It was a lovely time. The walk took about 45 minutes. By doing this, it really went a long way towards righting my slightly sour mood.
When we got back we began organizing the main meal. This called for more appetizers and more wine. The co-signer and our hostess put together a plate of goat cheese topped with a fig glaze and toasted hazelnuts. The co-signer made some seared scallops, using the mushroom powder as a topping. The hostess brought out a bottle of Eroica Riesling. The pairing of the goat cheese with the wine was to die for! The wine was good with the scallops, but a Chardonnay might have been a better choice for them. Still, it was incredible.
The main meal was planned. We dove into prep work. The co-signer sliced truffles and peeled potatoes. I prepared green beans. Our hostess prepared ginger and garlic for the beans. The hostess and I prepared Salmon Wellington. We took smallish salmon fillets (cut to 1/2 inch thickness), buttered some whole wheat phyllo sheets, placed a salmon fillet on each square of phyllo, butter the salmon, topped the salmon with truffle slices, then wrapped the phyllo around the salmon fillets. Place the wrapped salmon into a baking dish and place the dish in a 500 degree oven.
While the fish baked, I got the green beans started. I had parboiled the beans and put them into ice water. To finish them off, I put some oil in a hot skillet. Into the skillet went a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a tablespoon and a half of grated ginger. Swirl once, then add the green beans. Stir to coat the beans with the ginger and garlic oil. Heat through and remove to serving plate. The skillet work took all of about 3 minutes.
The hostess then prepared a sauteed cabbage dish. It was really simple as she sauteed the cabbage in a little apple juice and oil. She cooked it down so that it was just wilted, but still crisp. As she finished this, the potatoes she had started were done boiling. The cabbage was removed to a serving dish. The Salmon Wellington came out of the oven and was placed on the table. Our hostess finished the potatoes with a slight mashing, cream, and a little butter and salt. By "slight mashing" I mean that there were still nice chunks of potato left in the pan.
By the time the hostess came to the table, we had the food dished up. The cabbage was laid down first and topped with a Salmon Wellington. Green beans, potatoes, and cranberry sauce (homemade by the co-signer the night before using orange peel and Grand Marnier along with fresh cranberries) rounded out the plates. To drink with dinner, I had brought a bottle of Ken Wright Pinot Noir, Abbey Ridge Vineyard, 1999 (Oregon, decanted an hour and a half before dinner). The flavors were astounding. The truffle flavors really shined through and the salmon was cooked to perfection. The Pinot melded with these earthy flavors adding a bit of herbaceous fruit to the meal. (I don't think I would have enjoyed this wine on it's own as much as I did with the food). The green beans were crisp, but cooked. The ginger and garlic were nice, light touches to the flavor. The cranberry sauce was, as usual, as marvel. The potatoes were delish. They added an extraordinary earthy tone to the flavors. Oh, and the cabbage nicely complimented the salmon fillets, adding a bright note to the fish, phyllo, and truffles. The whole wheat phyllo was perfect for this meal.
Drinking, eating, and conversation ensued. A good time was had. We rested a bit and then pulled out the chocolate pecan pie for dessert. Our hostess made some decaf coffee to go with the pie. The pie turned out well. The pecans were a little tough (I'll roast them a minute longer next time), but the chocolate filling was tasty. The crust turned out to taste well, even though it was a tad off on it's shape. The hostess had a second helping as did the co-signer (small slivers, each).
This was a very nice Thanksgiving. No fuss. No weird family issues. The courses were tasty and easily thrown together. No laborious calculating of timing of the dishes to make certain everything was cooked and ready to go on the table warm. The food was fantastic. The company and conversations were wonderful. The wine pairings were especially delicious and rewarding.
A little over 7 hours and 3 bottles of wine after we arrived, we took leave of our hostess and came home. The co-signer and I ended our evening together (for she stayed up a little longer than I, as is usual) by watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special on DVD. We each slept in today. Practically perfect.